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My Blog

May Crowning

Good morning to everyone.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw a picture from a friend who's dog had some snow flakes on his fur this morning.  It is the 16th of May and there is snow in sections of Northern Illinois.  This is probably the latest in the season that I have ever remembered snow to occur in these parts.  It is, I am sure, quite the worry for many of the gardeners out in our neck of the woods.  I am glad that I have yet to have planted any of my vegetables yet.  My grow lights are shining down on them and keeping them safe for the moment. 
It is hard to think about May with snow in mix of things, but I was remembering my childhood and how the May crowning and really, the entire month of May growing up was a very special time.  I went to a Catholic School as a young girl and May was the month of the Blessed Virgin, Mary, the mother of Jesus.  In school, there was always a statue of her in our classrooms.  It was an honor and we believed, a blessing to bring flowers to school to place in the vase for Mary.  Now, May was not the time for most flowers that could be carried in a bouquet to be brought.  At least that was the case at my house.  We had a large magnolia tree in the garden and loads of perrineals growing up...but not much blooming yet.  I always wanted to take some flowers to school, but really didn't have any that could be picked.  So, I would go over to a neighbors house that was 3 doors down.  It belonged to an elderly couple with the last  name of Ciehowski.  They had a great big lilac bush on the side of their front porch.  Each May, I would ring their doorbell and ask for permission to cut some of the lilacs for a bouquet to take to school for Mary.  They never refused the request.  Thinking back now, they were probably pleased to be asked instead of someone just coming along and cutting some down.  To this day, I remember their generosity towards me.  Sometimes in life, it is the small things that stay with you your whole life. 
Well, also in the month of May, there was the May crowning.  now I went to st. Stanislaus B & M in Chicago and it was a big celebration including a procession to the outdoor garden down the block next to the school to crown the huge statue of Mary.  A very tall ladder was needed to accomplish this.  Their was what the nuns called, a court of girls chosen to walk with the girl to do the crowning.  A beautiful crown of flowers was carried on a pillow similar to the one a rind bearer would carry.  It was always one of the communicants that was chosen to crown Mary.  The entire school was gathering in groups for the procession that went all the way around the block and ended up in the garden.  It was always such a beautiful day.  All the communicants wore their white dresses and their dark suits.  We walked and we sag the song for the crowning called Sing of Mary.  It was all about bringing the flowers to crown her with. 
As I tried to recall the songs title, I asked my husband...well, that was an awakening.  I could remember the words and the melody and he looked at me and told me when he was a boy he was wishing to be somewhere else...perhaps doing something to honor St. Michael, because he was the guy with the swords...LOL...I never thought about how the boys viewed the May crowning.  Goes to show you the difference between us. 
Well, I remember being chosen to do the crowning.  What an honor it was. The best way to describe how I felt at the time was as though this job was like walking into the pearly gates of heaven. It was the highest honor one could have as a young girl. 
So, I began to wonder when this all began.  I traced it back to the year 1818 when at least twenty churches began this devotion to Mary.  Although the month of May was designated to honor her in the 1700's, the crowning did not begin until then.   I will see even until this day, announcements of crowning on billboards at the Catholic Churches.  I am happy to see that some traditions are still a part of todays society,  and each time I see a lilac bush. I cannot forget those days long ago.  I remember how the generosity and kindness of a neighbor allowed me the privilege of presenting flowers to Mary. It may have been just a statue...but to me...I always felt that I stood in the presence of the mother of Christ and what an honor that was.

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